The vague plan for the week was to camp in Eskdale, Langstrath and on the ridge of Glaramara if the weather was OK. I had never walked up Eskdale and the prospect of camping under Scafell was exciting. I was also eager to renew my acquaintance with Langstrath and camp a bit further up the valley.
I don’t like leaving the car in public places, so I decided to use the National Trust camp site at Langdale as a base to leave the car and my base camp tent. It’s been 21 years since I’d last camped there. It’s not changed that much except it’s become more hi tech with card operated entrance barriers and better showers. The position is second only to the NT Wasdale camp site, with glorious mountains all around, but dominated by Bowfell glowering over Mickelden.
The fees have increased, costing £44 for four nights, but at least the showers were free. I hadn’t booked but there was plenty of room. The downside though is that the field set aside for those arriving on spec is rather lumpy and stony. However, with a geodesic tent, it didn’t really matter.
As I started putting up the tent, there was a smattering of rain, but it soon cleared and the rest of the afternoon was quite pleasant. I had a lazy afternoon and evening, sorting gear and finalising what I was going to do. In the evening sunshine, there were an amazing number of almost tame rabbits grazing between the tents.
After a good night’s sleep, courtesy of the camper’s best friend: ear plugs, I rose reasonably early. I had a final sort of gear with a few last minute inclusions (mug and long sleeve base layer) and exclusions (shirt and silk pyjama trousers).
As I was putting my surplus gear in the car, the guy from the car next to me sidled up and asked whether I wrote a blog. Fame at last! It turned out that this was Alan Rayner, who also writes a blog and he recognised me from my pictures. We had a pleasant chat for about half an hour, mainly about gear, than I was ready for the off.
As I sauntered down the lane towards Stool End, there was a tremendous commotion behind the trees. A helicopter took off from Middle Fell Farm, with some kind of shed panels dangling from it. I watched it for a few minutes as the pilot carefully inched his way along the valley, taking care not to let the panels swing too much, which was a bit of a feat as there was a gusty breeze. It disappeared around the end of The Band towards Hell Gill and I didn’t see it again.
Just after the farm I passed an old chap with three dogs, who may have been the farmer, but he wasn’t very communicative. Originally I was going to take the path up Hell Gill, but AW recommends The Band, so The Band it was. While the views are good and either side and back to Langdale, The Band is a bit of a trudge.
The Weather was cloudy, which was not ideal for photography at times the breeze was quite brisk. Not far from Three Tarns, Alan and Sheila caught up with and overtook me. Brief greetings were exchanged and the observation that the weather felt like it was on the turn and there could be rain by the afternoon.
At Three Tarns, I decided to have elevenses. I sheltered behind a large rock outcrop and elevenses turned into lunch as I devoured my cheese sandwiches. I can remember camping at Three Tarns as a lad, but couldn’t remember exactly where we pitched, but it brought back some good memories.
The descent to Lingcove Beck was more difficult than I had anticipated, partly due to the path and partly due to my Roclites, which are a lot less secure on loose rock and steep grass than my normal Fastpackers. As I result I was slower and more circumspect than I normally would be.
As I reached the beck the weather brightened. I found some debris from an aircraft or helicopter. Subsequently, I’ve had a look on the internet, but can’t find any reference to it. As there are only two pieces, I presume that it wasn’t from a crash, rather some pieces falling off.
After crossing the beck dryshod, I started to encounter some marshy ground. Having revelled in the breathability of my shoes, I now found the downside and my feet got wet. As Lingcove Beck turns west, the path improved and the beck entered a ravine. Unfortunately the path is a little way from the ravine so I couldn’t inspect it at close quarters.
I was hoping that the improvement in the path would help my feet dry out, but this remained a forlorn hope for the rest of the day. Just before the confluence with the River Esk, there are a series of spectacular waterfalls, which required some detailed photographic examination, slowing me down further.
The bridge just before the beck joins the Esk is a graceful arch of stone. After crossing the bridge, I joined the Esk with a sharp pull up Throstle Garth. I passed a couple of groups, who were dressed in gear for “canyoning”. Unfortunately the path up Throstle Garth is a little way from the river, so there were only glimpses of the various waterfalls.
Just before Scar Lathing, the river goes through a delightful gorge. To the north there were tantalising glimpses of Scafell and Scafell Pike. The path on the eastern side that I was following is easy, but the one on the western side looked a good deal more challenging, crossing small scree slopes and hugging the gorge wall.
On reaching Scar Lathing the valley broadens out, but only when the river turns north is the true majesty of the upper Esk revealed. On the west are the crags of Scafell and Scafell Pike, to the north Esk Pike and to the east Bowfell, a truly spectacular amphitheatre.
Great Moss is aptly named as it is a huge squelchy marsh. I decided to put on my Gore-Tex over-socks (somewhat belatedly) to prevent a further soaking. Opposite Sampson’s Stones I came across a reasonable pitch just above the river. Not one to look a gift horse in the mouth, I decided to call it a day, even though it was only half past three. As I put up the tent it started to rain.
After putting up the tent as quickly as I could, I dived in. The shower only lasted a few minutes, but it was a foretaste of what was to come later that night. When it stopped I filled my canteen with water. I did consider whether to pack up and cross the river but I was unsure whether there would be a better pitch on the other side and whether the weather would hold, so I decided to stay put.
It was a wise move as soon the rain started in earnest. The wind freshened, although it was not as strong as I expected. Tent induced lassitude took over and I dozed, had my dinner and generally lazed around.
As the evening drew on the rain became heavier. I discovered that the Scarp was not as watertight as I thought and adjusted the fastening loops on the inner to ensure that any drips fell harmlessly on to the inner tent material rather than the more vulnerable seams. With darkness, the rain and wind picked up in intensity and repaired to my sleeping bag for some kip.
During the night, at about one o’clock, I was woken by flashing lights. At first I thought it might be lightening. I poked my head out of the tent and saw torch beams lighting up the cloud near Cam Spout. They lasted for only about five minutes. I was glad that I was safe and dry in my tent.